25 September 2013

Step forward you, you & you - your library needs you

You will be armed with a ready supply of good books
Dear Friends

Our volunteer rota is looking very thin, due to some people having to leave for job and family reasons. Could you spare at least two hours a week on a regular basis? If you could volunteer for longer times that would be brilliant!

Please can you email me back, letting me know what you would be able to offer.

If you would prefer to phone the library - our landline is down, but you can call our mobile between the hours of 11am and 7pm and ask staff to put your name on the rota behind the counter -

Tel: 07592 231 150.

Many thanks

Anne Storey
Trustee and Volunteer

Friern Barnet Library Trustees
Friern Barnet Community Library
Friern Barnet Road
N11 3DS

FOI and outsourcing - a buffer to FOI?

An outsourcing contract acts as a buffer against FOI requests

This post is in response to a tweet about the release of the Capita NSCSO One Barnet Contract which, on the face of it to the outside world, appears to be a good thing. The contract is worth £320m over the 10 years.

Right, for non-Barnet people our council have decided to contract out for 10 years to Capita the following services which they obliquely describe as back office:

Customer Services
Estates (Asset Management, Building Services, Property Services)
Human Resources
Information Systems
Revenues and Benefits

Revenues and benefits is council tax and business rates collection to you and me, not what one would exactly describe as back office. The contract for these services is 2,084 pages in length and has been published in multiple pdfs on the council website, here. A classic case of hiding the detail in full view. Rest assured that the Barnet Bloggers will, between them, read the whole thing. Has any ruling councillor read the whole contract, especially one from the Cabinet who committed us to this deal? probably not. None of the Cabinet admitted to reading it, Mr Mustard did ask them all and the silence was deafening.

Mr Mustard thinks that the reason the council published the final contract was that they were going to get multiple FOI requests for it and it was actually quicker to post it online. Mr Reasonable had asked and goodness knows who else (not Mr Mustard as he is in self imposed FOI exile for now.) He wasn't "banned" (questions automatically found to be vexatious) from asking about One Barnet; only on parking, parking tickets and CPZ's which is now history.

Now let us simplify matters to a contract for Parking Enforcement. That was signed with NSL to start on 1 May 2012 and is worth about £2.5m a year and is for an initial 5 year term. Mr Mustard does admit to being very interested in parking and he helps people pro bono (free of charge) to appeal their parking tickets and currently has a 97% success rate after 65 appeals. The council will either just throw in the towel in future on his cases (as they are a flea bite out of the 165,000 PCN issued a year) or they will put extra resource into fighting him. Currently they throw in the towel when faced with reasoned and logical argument and occasionally they are kind to him and exercise their discretion in favour of old folks who have got a bit befuddled with their blue badge.

There was considerable doubt in the mind of Mr Mustard about the status of bailiffs in the year 2012-13. So the first month was managed entirely by the council (there was a one month delay in getting the parking contract off the ground - pension issues caused by NSL Ltd having another firm to do the scanning). As Mr Mustard couldn't ask any FOI questions about parking he took a different approach. Once a year it is possible to interrogate the Accounts of the council. This right is established by Section 15 of the Audit Commission Act 1988. (ACA1988) Mr Mustard asked to see bailiff contracts for 2012-13 (he was given a 200 page expired contract to look at, he didn't bother). It turned out there wasn't a bailiff contract for 2012-13, Mr Mustard was told there was no bailiff derived income for that year. Putting aside the incompetence of not collecting PCN in a timely manner (and they should be cancelled if left moribund for 6 months at any stage) Mr Mustard was a little surprised. The first month could be understood as it was anticipated that the NSL contract would have started on 1 April 12 but not the other 11 months as the contract with NSL included:

"The Service Provider will engage with a suitable number of bailiff companies to enforce County Court Warrants and comply with the Barnet Code of Practice."

Mr Mustard has not requested the Barnet Code of Practice under FOI. He also notes the interesting word "engage" as opposed to contract, appoint, instruct, etc

Now under the ACA 1988 Mr Mustard, as a resident, is entitled to see any contract that the council takes out. They didn't take out the bailiff contracts, NSL Ltd did. Let us have a look at the contract terms, Mr Mustard has a redacted copy of the contract with NSL (sorry about the white on black, a technical issue)

So from that it seems to be up to the council to decide if something is to be disclosed or not.

Did the council hold the bailiff contracts? (they jolly well should as they have a duty of care in respect of bailiff behaviour but that is a fine theory not usually borne out in practice) Here are minutes of meetings between NSL and Barnet Council managements (these were easily obtained by another party and given to Mr Mustard as his questions were, at the relevant time, too vexatious to be answered).

On 5 October 12 the minutes show the following:

Redacted requested copies of SLA and contract made with bailiffs.

Now the minutes only make sense if the redacted initials are those of a Barnet Council employee as it was NSL who signed the contract so they will have a copy. (SLA is Service Level Agreement, by the way). Now, if the SLA and contract had been supplied to Barnet Council then Mr Mustard thinks they are disclosable under FOI.

The plot thickens. Someone else asked for the bailiff contracts, the response was given the reference 293065 but doesn't appear in the published list of FOI responses. Does that make you think that the responses published on the council website are selective? Luckily Mr Mustard has the response, as follows:

I am writing to inform you that we have searched our records and the information you requested is not held by London Borough of Barnet.

  1. These 3rd party sub contracts are held on the council's behalf. They are contracts between the contractors and the 3rd parties and the council has no proprietary rights in them.
  2. There is no statutory obligation on the council to hold copies of these 3rd party sub contracts.

So, copies were requested in October 12 but hadn't been received by July 13 and the parking client side, who are paid to oversee parking enforcement are either utterly hopeless at following up action points in the minutes, or bailiff contracts don't actually exist, or the FOI response is bunkum. The lack of clarity has led Mr Mustard to object to the signing off of Barnet Council's Accounts for the year. The response is due in about 10 days.

Mr Mustard thinks that by now @bainesy1969 might be reviewing his opinion of Barnet Council, we'll see. He'll either tell us in the comment box or email mrmustard@zoho.com to have his view added to this post.

So to get back to the question in hand for all the FOI experts who read this. If NSL take out the contract on behalf of Barnet council but don't give them a copy, is it subject to disclosure under FOI? Mr Mustard thinks not. One possible lever is that only a creditor can instruct a bailiff so Barnet Council can instruct the bailiff and NSL can't (let us avoid, for now, the red herring that NSL also own a bailiff company called Task Enforcement Ltd and have used them to chase unpaid PCN for Barnet Council as that is a conflict of interest blog for another day) so any contract that NSL sign is as agent for Barnet Council and not as the principal? Mr Mustard isn't a lawyer but wonders if that changes the position in terms of the document being subject to FOI?

NSL Ltd aren't subject to FOI as a contractor. This removes any contract they sign on their own behalf but for the benefit of the council out of public scrutiny and on NSCSO that is potentially £320m of contracts we can't see. Doesn't look so open and transparent now does it?

If you think you can get current bailiff contracts please ask for them (foi@barnet.gov.uk). Don't tell Mr Mustard you have done so and it isn't on his behalf. We don't want you accused of being in concert with him.

Now @FOIkid, tell Mr Mustard, is there a solution or should FOI be extended to apply to all contracts funded by the public purse?

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

Comment; So it looks like the council got it wrong. It will be up to the original requestor to ask for the review. It also occurs to Mr Mustard that he can go back to the council and suggest that they should have released the bailiff contracts under ACA 1988 on the same grounds that they are held on behalf of the council.

24 September 2013

From Vexatious to merely vexing - a journey - stage 1.

Vexatious: seeking only to annoy (that is from the dictionary; vexatious isn't actually defined in Freedom of Information legislation and Mr Mustard has unfortunately helped to formulate what it means. Doh!)

Vexed: Irritated, angered,(of a problem) difficult and much discussed, problematic.

It was Mrs Angry of Broken Barnet fame (currently to be found paddling in the sea off Brighton due to some meeting or other, Mr Mustard wouldn't know the details because it involves Politics with a big P which Mr Mustard simply doesn't have time for. Ooh, and La Bloggeuse was on the telly) who told Mr Mustard that he was only vexing not vexatious. (Yes, she did also tell him he had overdone the number of questions, as did two other people, but by then it was too late and Mr Mustard had the ICO's decision to deal with.)

Rather than spend hours preparing for a long, tedious and difficult hearing in front of the First Tier Tribunal at which Barnet Council would have instructed the best specialist barrister available (an uneven contest against a lay person) at which every rotten word he had ever written would have been dragged out of the blog and given an out-of-context airing, which the tribunal would probably have frowned upon, Mr Mustard negotiated a settlement with the Chief Operating Officer but more of that later. Before then, you need the scene to be set. 

What were those vexatious questions that Mr Mustard asked a year ago and caused such angst. These:

and these (two others were answered recently as they weren't vexatious after all, but by then Mr Mustard didn't really need the answers anyway)

So Mr Mustard thinks you will agree that these were not particularly taxing in terms of time and weren't likely to lead to Mr Mustard writing about an individual except in one case where the post was quite senior and that is allowed and the intention was to blog about the rapid turnover in personnel within the post and improper procurement that he wanted to write about, in any case.

So why did Mr Mustard ask these question? Answers follow the question numbers.

1.  In order to compare the numbers of tickets issued since NSL took over to when it was in-house. We now know from other reports that following NSL's appointment parking tickets have increased by 25%. Coincidence? Mr Mustard doesn't think so.

2.  The invoices supplied in response to a question didn't match the ones on the over £500 spending list.

3.  Asked for NSL's invoices each month so that the Key Performance Indicator (KPI) payments could be tracked.

4.  To confirm what Mr Mustard already knew that the answer was nil. A gross dereliction of duty and the cause of much trouble now that they are being sent off to bailiffs a year after the event.

5.  The council had just voted to start enforcing these moving traffic violations. There is a consultation ongoing about the location of new cctv cameras but some will be placed at these locations whatever the public says.

6.  So that costs of PayByPhone could be compared to the cost of cash collection from meters.

7.  To see what template wordings were in use.

8.  To get a feel for the likely success of an informal appeal and whether 100% of them were rejected.

9.  The minutes cannot have been sufficiently clear.

10.  Just to see what the plan was and whether it included longer hours, targeting particular offences etc.

11.  The parking department should produce an annual report and send it to the mayor. If they had done so this question would not have been necessary. The question was so that the trend of income could be looked at accurately.

12.  The circumstances around the appointment of the AD were murky to say the least.

13.  It was not produced in breach of legislation.

14.  This question was about the manner of serving to get a handle on the numbers affixed to vehicle or handed to driver or sent in the post.

15.  This was to see if proper procedures had been followed for a friend who had a PCN. It was won on review at PATAS.

16.  To see if NSL were doing that aspect of their job or just issuing PCN regardless.

17.  The TMO were given to NSL on a memory stick so it was a few minutes work for the council to provide these and then not have to deal with individual requests.

18.  In Woodside Grove there are CPZ bays across people's drives which is rather odd and an explanation would have been useful and appreciated.

19.  This question was asked on someone else's behalf. Next time they can ask their own.

20.  as for 3.

Do these questions strike you as particularly long, complicated, unreasonable, obsessive, difficult, excessive or anything else if all asked in one month or vexatious? Put your view in the comment box below.

The second part of the story will follow soon although Mr Mustard does have to spend some time looking at the 2,000+ page Capita contract for Customer services (NSCSO) which Mr Reasonable asked for and Mr Mustard didn't as he hasn't asked a question of Barnet Council (hello to Governance in TfL, Haringey, Harrow and Islington where he has) since 12 July (which was a request for the locations & numbers of PayByPhone bays which must be in a spreadsheet somewhere: Answer - vexatious!) and he is now free to ask on Parking, Parking Tickets and CPZ's but hasn't. 

Ironically if he had asked for the NSCSO contract, a multi-million pound decade long and controversial outsourcing deal, that would not have been rejected out of hand as being vexatious (it would have been declined on the grounds of future publication which has now happened). Funny old world!

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

22 September 2013

CPZ refunds coming soon

Manyana (beach)
Mr Mustard always thought the 8 weeks and everyone will be paid out promise was going to be hard to meet and since his claim was acknowledged on 5 August (one of the first to claim probably) he has heard diddly squat.

He is grateful to the friend who brought this Delegated Powers Report to his attention (are they not still numbered nowadays?)

Civica - Parking Refunds Contract Award by MisterMustard

Mr Mustard is well known for pulling officers up who break the rules and issue single supplier purchase order arrangements (they often forget the actual contract) but in this case he perfectly understands and agrees with the logic. In addition, the Civica proposed fee seems reasonable and they don't look like they have tried to abuse their monopolistic position.

Mr Mustard notes that of four officers mentioned on the front cover of the DPR, two are interims. He does hope we are soon going to have an absolute minimum of interims and consultants now that most of the "transformation" has been decided upon. Using the paragraph numbers of the report Mr Mustard has the following observations:

3.2 That would be the advertising done by the CPZ campaigners, BAPS, Bloggers and the LidDems in High Barnet (not sure who else). Mr Mustard hasn't seen anything from the council other than on the website which somebody who has moved out of borough is unlikely to look at. Have you had a permit renewal reminder in the last month? Did it have a note saying you might be due a refund? Do please comment below if it did.

3.3 If only the council had said this at the beginning "every effort will be made to contact them" i.e. residents who are due a refund.

5.2 If all 12,000 applications are made that will be a cost of about £7 per refund.

8.7 Mr Mustard doubts that all refunds will be made within 8 weeks of the decision not to contest the judgment, which was made on 2 August. Perhaps this means within 8 weeks of the DPR i.e within 8 weeks of 3 September?

This DPR did set Mr Mustard thinking. Civica will not have entered into a contract which could lose them money and so will doubtless have allowed for the worst case scenario that all 12,000 refund applications will be made. They are therefore confident that they can process a refund for less than £7. 

The council could ensure they get value for money by taking out advertisements in the 3 local papers (include the Ham & High as it has readers from Barnet) one in Barnet First (the odd person must actually read it) put a flyer in with every document from the parking department and NSL, a footnote on every email from the council (instead of that stupid one about saving the environment - Mr Mustard can decide for himself what he wants to print thank you very much) in the advertising hoardings around the borough and on the backs of buses. Traffic wardens could also put helpful leaflets on every car they pass which is sporting a CPZ permit.

The question that we then need to ask is at what cost they could process an application for a permit? There are documents to check so let us allow another £3 for the brief time that should take (a logbook say and a proof of address) and we have a cost to process a permit of £10. We are charged £40 for a permit so aren't they still being used for revenue raising?

I feel a judicial review coming on if the council vote for even an inflationary increase to the cost of a permit.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

20 September 2013

Well done parking client side

Mr Mustard is about to do a rare thing and dish out some praise. He knows he is a nuisance to the parking client side and in the past he has criticised them (mostly anonymously he hopes although now he thinks about it he did name the Parking Manager, who is an interim, and suggest he really ought to leave and let a permanent staff person take over but that was before they had met and now the name of redacted won't again appear in the blog) but roughty toughty parking staff can look after themselves OK as they are cut from the same block as Mr Mustard, a former tax officer and currently a debt collector. 

Mr Mustard thinks that they are starting to get the hang of him. Last year Mr Mustard was disappointed when they didn't send flowers to the bereaved lady who they had unfairly ticketed outside of the hospice and they are now perhaps coming round to the view of the leader when he is approached by Mr Mustard on parking matters "but you'll be right Mr Mustard won't you" although he was then persuaded the opposite on that occasion by his staff. Actually Richard, Mr Mustard thinks he is right on the question of parking tickets from 2011 but perhaps for the wrong reason. Mr Mustard will correct that before the Ombudsman gets involved.

Anyway, Mr Mustard is sure that he told you about the "client" (friend, acquaintance, whatever) who had picked up 13 parking tickets and 7 of them were with bailiffs who could have set up a camp outside her property. They couldn't clamp the car because it belonged to Motability which tells you that the person gets the higher level of payment for her disabilities and given that the accommodation is rented and the client was under strict instructions to make sure sure the bailiff couldn't get in (and they can't break in for parking debt) the whole problem was going to go away within 12 months if his client kept her nerve.

Mr Mustard only found out yesterday that the bailiffs had been called off in mid-August when he first complained to the leader and the parking team about a PCN from 2010 still being chased, and there were also six from 2011, two from 2012 and four from 2013. The PCN included ones that simply should not have been issued including two for being more than 50cm from the kerb when the car clearly wasn't.

Anyway, on Wednesday something went wrong and a bailiff from Newlyn (in the news on the Mr Reasonable blog) clamped the Motability car in the Lodge Lane Car Park. He was also rude to the person concerned when she pointed out he couldn't clamp a car that wasn't hers and she had a physio appointment to get to. Mr Mustard got on the blower, the bailiff rang his own office and probably got told to remove the clamp sharpish, as that is what happened.

Now Mr Mustard was going to file a formal complaint to the council as they are responsible for the actions of bailiffs contracted by NSL on their behalf and stick the bailiff himself in front of the judge who issued his licence in the hope that it might get torn up but he had a pleasant surprise. The parking client side felt bad about what had happened, they had caused stress and inconvenience to a disabled motorist. They were under the cosh from Mr Mustard for the old PCN and he was busy appealing every in-time ticket to PATAS which costs the council £40 out of their budget each time (97% of the time Mr Mustard wins) and so they very generously chucked the towel in on every outstanding parking ticket perhaps because the bailiff gave them the opportunity to do so. It looks like Newlyn management and NSL will be having some discussions very soon about their behaviour and may have to pay for some of the tickets.

They also recognised that Mr Mustard was also providing a valuable advice service to transgressing motorists by educating them about where they have gone wrong and trying to stop it happening again (this is not as easy as it seems). Mr Mustard has suggested to the council many times that they should be running courses on how to park legally but that sits ill-at-ease with the budget requirement to make £7million nett from parking.

Anyone, well done parking client side (you know who you are and have had Mr Mustard's word that your name will not appear in this blog unless you want it to), pat yourselves on the back for a good decision.

Now Mr Mustard must go and continue with business as usual. He has a PATAS form to complete for someone who drove away before the PCN had started to be issued. A favourite trick of traffic wardens to claim otherwise.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

A traffic warden is a complete liar.

On Monday Mr Mustard attended the Budget & Performance Overview and Scrutiny Committee. It is not as dry as you might think. Mr Mustard was there because he has been expecting the budget to be broken for 2 years because the way the council was overrun with consultants and temps had to eventually have consequences. All those Judicial Reviews for radical and/or stupid decisions also carry a fair cost. The Special Parking Account is short by £1,081,000

There were also other items on the agenda like reviews of parking in North Finchley (with Edgware and Chipping Barnet to be reported to the committee soon).

That item led to Cllr Alan Schneiderman, who is in opposition but is always working hard asking questions about parking, as it is in his shadow portfolio, wanting 30 minutes free parking in town centres (some ruling councillors agreed but with the hole in the budget that would create it will be a long time coming) and he also wanted less zealous enforcement. The Director of Place, Pam Wharfe, went into Yes Minister mode and said that he should of course bring her examples of such a thing and she would look at the specifics. Of course the whole of Barnet knows that enforcement in 2012-13 was much worse than in 2011-12, you only have to look at the 25% increase in the number of PCN to see that or read this blog but hey, let us help Ms Wharfe out. Here is the report of an adjudication that took place at PATAS very recently, it is case number 2130357773.

The appellant, who appeared before me today, said that his vehicle had been parked outside his house he being unable to move it because its battery was flat he submitting that there was a fault with the battery he maintaining his vehicle properly he stating that the whole of the incident had been filmed by a cctv camera installed in his premises he having put that footage on his iPhone he playing it to me at the hearing.

The footage showed the appellant pushing the vehicle from its parking space the attendant being at the location on a bike & not as he claimed serving the notice by handing it to the driver the appellant pushing his vehicle away from the location the attendant leaving it. It was clear on that footage that the attendant had been untruthful about that aspect of his evidence.

I was satisfied that the appellant had been prevented from moving his vehicle through circumstances beyond his control finding that the exemption in this regard applied and found that the penalty charge notice had not been served.

So there we have it. Proof from a member of the public that one Civil Enforcement Officer (on a scooter so that cuts it down a bit) or traffic warden as they are commonly known, is a lying toerag.

From the PATAS report you can see the PCN number, AG32027447, and from that the council can look up the badge number of the warden. Then Mr Mustard might suggest stripping him/her of his/her badge (actually Mr Mustard has only seen male scooter riders) and epaulettes and sending him/her on their way as we do not want dishonest traffic wardens in Barnet.

However, it probably isn't the traffic warden's fault. We are forever being told that there aren't targets for the issue of PCN but there almost certainly is pressure on CEOs to issue a certain number of tickets otherwise the budget for parking income will not be met (there is that small matter of a million pound shortfall) and NSL have been under pressure for their performance with KPI not being met in the year to March 13. Mr Mustard is more inclined to think that NSL put terrible pressure on the traffic wardens to dish out parking tickets and thus this sort of behaviour happens. Mr Mustard is sure wardens are not instructed to cheat but they are certainly issuing more marginal and/or questionable parking tickets and leaving the motorist to appeal their way out of the problem. Without cctv it is the motorist's word against the traffic warden's.

Luckily our honest hero motorist, who lives in Park Road (not sure which one, there are four Park Roads in Barnet?) provided incontrovertible evidence. There is absolutely no reason to suppose that this is the only case of cheating by a traffic warden.

If the motorist is reading this you have a perfect case for claiming costs as the council has been wholly unreasonable or vexatious in issuing and pursuing the PCN.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

19 September 2013

£525 p.a. to be messed about

Business permit holders in Chipping Barnet have to hunt for CB signs
Something really should be done about NSL (and in theory someone in the council parking client side who has to decide upon formal representations) rejecting perfectly valid challenges. Every one they get wrong costs the motorist £60 or £110 if they pay up (probably at the 50% rate though) or costs the council £40 when an appeal is then made to PATAS. Here is a recent PATAS adjudication decision with the odd typo corrected:

The Appellant holds a business permit. As he was changing vehicles, he was given a dispensation number which he displayed while he was parked in a pay and display space in Fitzjohn Avenue car park.

I do not think that the issue was about the use of the dispensation number, or whether it was displayed. If that was the issue, I would have no hesitation in finding in the Appellant's favour. That said, the Authority's case was not clear at all.

The Authority said in its letter of rejection that the contravention occurred because a business permit is not valid in all car parks. This suggests that a business permit can be used in some car parks. The Authority has not provided any evidence as to which car parks were permitted and it did not say how permit holders would know which ones they can use.

At the formal representations stage, the Appellant then pointed out that there was a notice in Moxon Street car park which advises permit holders to use the Fitzjohn Avenue car park instead. This notice stated that the change was effective from 25 February. It did not say that the change was temporary. The Appellant also pointed out that the sign at the Moxon Street car park states that business permits are not permitted and this is not stated in the Fitzjohn Avenue car park.

The Authority then issued a Notice of Rejection which suggested that business permits are not valid in any car park. However, a PCN issued in the same circumstances was cancelled at the formal representations stage. The letter of acceptance indicated that the Appellant's representations were accepted.

In summary, the Authority had by this stage contradicted itself on whether business permits can be used in the Fitzjohn Avenue car parks. It had in fact contradicted itself as to whether business permits can be used in a car park at all. One would have thought that the Notice of Appeal should have caused the Authority to consider the position more carefully. It did not.

The Authority went on at length about pay by phone or pay and display, which are not issues in this case. It said that business permit holder/those with dispensation cannot park in the Fitzjohn Avenue car park. It said that each case must be treated on is own merit.

Each case should be treated in its own merit but if the Appellant makes an identical submission and supplies identical evidence, any differences in outcome needs to be justified. Furthermore, the letter of acceptance and the evidence of the notice at Moxon Street car park clearly implied that business permits can be used in some car parks. The Authority has not explained how these sit with its claim that permits are no valid in all car parks.

I am not satisfied that the contravention occurred. I am allowing the appeal.

The above explanation explains why you need to go to PATAS armed with background evidence of what the parking regime is, perhaps by taking printouts of the council's website or like this person with a photo of a council sign that might become relevant to your argument.

In case you are not yet confused enough, here is an extract of a letter about the changes to parking arrangements in Chipping Barnet from February of this year.

and then this is what a local trader says:

It is indeed a mess.

Before 25th Feb this year when we were kicked out of Moxon St car park I was emphatically told that businesses could only use the car parks! The CB code was assumed to stand for Chipping Barnet. I was told that there were no business bays in High Barnet.

After Feb we were told that CB stood for area C and Businesses. We were in fact NEVER permitted to use any of the car parks!

We were also told that we were forbidden from parking in Moxon St and Stapylton car parks only. That would leave the long stay Fitzjohn as suitable. We have, on desperate occasions, used it. If you have a vehicle larger than a Mini you have to climb out of the windows because the bays are so narrow.

and finally from the council's website

The permit only allows you to park in a "Business Permit Holders Only" or "Permit Holders Only" parking place during the controlled hours, making sure that the same zone identifier letters displayed on the permit appear on the sign. (No mention of car parks.)

Mr Mustard is pleased he has been able to clear that confusion up for you! The council are there to serve us. They do. Badly.

If the council are going to take £525 from traders for a permit for a year the least they could do is to provide some appropriately sized spaces as traders are more likely to have larger vehicles in order to move stock. A charge that is 13 times what a resident would pay for a car is unsustainable and possibly revenue raising. Mr Mustard knows what we need, a judicial review of the charge and some other councillors in charge. Look at the top left and you'll see how many days it is until you can kick the current incumbents out. Traders are likely also to be local residents. Make your voice heard.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard 

Another happy "customer" (friend of a friend)

Penalty - then a Penalty Charge Notice - away fixture at Chiswick
Here is the story of a friend of a friend of Mr Mustard. It, or a similar story of everyday life, is doubtless repeated many times over across London every day.

My story – with a happy ending

One Sunday afternoon in early July I received a call from my 24 yr old son to ask me if I could pick him up from Chiswick as he’d injured himself playing football, couldn’t walk and didn’t think he could get home on public transport. I drove to Turnham Green Terrace, intending to park in the Pay & Display and help him back to the car. As there were no spaces and he was sitting on the bench by the bus stop – having been helped there by his friends – I stopped momentarily while my husband got out and helped my son to the car. I remained in the driver’s seat with the engine running. The entire procedure probably lasted less than a minute. A few days later I received a PCN. The controversial CCTV positioned under the railway bridge, allegedly to make the area safer for pedestrians at night, had snapped me during that short space of time. The photograph sent to prove I had been there showed me in the driving seat, and the other two people in the car could be made out if you looked carefully.

I contested the PCN, pointing out that I was collecting my injured son, had taken him directly to A & E and had stopped for less than a minute in the bus stop as there were no P & D spaces available.

My initial appeal was rejected and I was trying to decide if it was worth taking it to the next stage and risk losing again, when a friend told me about Mr Mustard. Mr M advised me that the wording in the small print of the PCN was inaccurate and strongly counselled me to appeal again. This I did, pointing out these facts, and submitting proof of my son’s registration at A & E at Charing Cross Hospital, barely 15 minutes after the alleged violation.

This was, however, again rejected and I filled out the PATAS appeal form provided to take my case in person to the independent adjudicator. (This cost Hounslow Council £40 and the motorist £nil)

I was given a date for this appeal.

10 days before the appeal date I received a letter from LBH parking management stating that after my submission of additional evidence concerning my son’s injury, they were not going to contest my appeal any more.

It’s because of incidents like this that more money was raised from Chiswick High Road in parking fines in the past year than any other street in the country ( link to story here ). 

My tale illustrates the bullying tactics of councils like Hounslow. They know that most people will drop their appeal after one rejection. So, all the more easy money in their coffers.

I would strongly urge everyone not to give up but follow through to the independent adjudicator. The PATAS form is very straightforward, and if you have a good reason for the alleged parking violation, just tell the truth about it and give your story. I wish I had done this last year when I had an appeal rejected the first time by Hammersmith & Fulham for parking in a Loading Bay for 4 minutes when I was dropping several hundreds of pounds worth of donations to our local British Heart Foundation shop at 10.30 am on a Sunday morning and I wouldn’t have ended up paying £55 for being a good citizen.

Thank you Mr Mustard for the support and encouragement to fight the bullies.

So it isn't only in Barnet that there is bluff and bullying. The council simply want your money and can hide behind faceless decision makers who show less compassion than a house brick.

You can win. Simply appeal three times.

Yours sincerely

Mr Mustard

18 September 2013

Free bailiff training - Motability vehicles - do not clamp them

how Invalid Carriages used to be - no choice, this was it.


The Motability Scheme enables disabled people to lease a new car, scooter or powered wheelchair by exchanging their Government funded mobility allowance

If you receive either the Higher Rate Mobility Component of Disability Living Allowance (HRMC DLA), the Enhanced Rate of the Mobility Component of Personal Independence Payment (ERMC PIP) , the War Pensioners’ Mobility Supplement (WPMS) or the Armed Forces Independence Payment (AFIP) you may be eligible to join the Motability Scheme.


Now when a person with a motability car gets a parking ticket PCN the V5 will come back showing the name Motability, care of the name and address of the disabled person. A Motability car is leased for 3 years (5 years if specially adapted) and never belongs to the motorist so it cannot be seized in payment of their debt. In order to send you a Notice to Owner the council asks the DVLA for the registered keeper details so they know from the off that the car in question is a Motability car. When the bailiff starts work the first thing they do is a HPI check to see if the vehicle is on hire purchase etc and to check who is the current registered keeper. This will throw up the name of Motability and this tells the bailiff that he/she must not clamp the car.

The bailiff

The bailiff's vehicle will be fitted with ANPR equipment. This means that as they are driving to see a debtor the ANPR will alert them to any vehicle they pass which has an outstanding debt on it which their firm has been instructed to collect. Today the car of a friend of Mr Mustard was parked in the Lodge Lane Car Park. 

She has picked up a right assortment of parking tickets which due to a misunderstanding of the process she has not properly appealed. Thus invalid parking tickets e.g. one for being parked more than 50cm from the kerb when the whole car was not so parked, turn into a debt that cannot be contested. Her oldest parking ticket is from December 2010 and it is an abuse of process for the council to continue to chase it but the council don't agree. The ombudsman will have to eventually get involved as Mr Mustard has lodged a complaint on behalf of another motorist in respect of a July 2011 parking ticket and the clamping and subsequent removal of a car. The decision will affect all old parking tickets which should have been written off.

A bailiff clamped her car in the Lodge Lane Car Park. He claimed he could even though he was told it was a Motability car. Mr Mustard got on the blower. The Parking Process Manager didn't answer (lunch time). The Parking Manager's number came up as unobtainable, apparently it does that if he hasn't logged in, how useless a phone system is that? Next call was to the Streetscene Director who was in a meeting (he had two more senior levels of management to go to after that). A helpful lady answered who tracked down the Parking Process Manager (PPM) who promised to call Mr Mustard - the telephone has not yet sounded but doubtless there are loads of other complaints to sort out.

By the time Mr Mustard had made 3 calls for his distressed friend, who inevitably was on battery low and needed to get to an appointment for some medical treatment, the bailiff had spoken to his office and returned and mixed in with some rudeness he removed the clamp. This action looks like a calculated act to bully a disabled pensioner on benefits into paying up. Barnet council are responsible for the bailiff's actions and will be held accountable.

This PCN was the subject of a long email on 11 August about old parking tickets and he was promised a response within a week of 28 August. Perhaps if the response had been sent this August 2011 PCN might have been cancelled and the council could have avoided this bad publicity.


Mr Mustard will hopefully get his call from the PPM, they are on good terms as they often have to correspond!

A formal complaint will be made to the council.

A Form 4 will be filed at the County Court which issued the bailiff's licence and Mr Mustard expects that the judge will not be amused.


If you have a Motability car and an outstanding PCN sent to bailiffs for some reason, Mr Mustard suggests putting a note in the windscreen of your car saying "This car belongs to Motability, clamp it at your peril".

Bailiffs take note

Every time you step out of line and Mr Mustard becomes involved Form 4 will be completed and you will be explaining yourself to a judge. Don't say you have not been warned. Do your job within the confines of the law please.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

17 September 2013

A guided walk on upcoming weekends.

 'The Battle of Barnet' - Explore the famous battlefield of 1471.

With Paul Baker, City of London guide
Please phone or email Paul if you are planning to come on a walk.

‘The Battle of Barnet’
Explore the famous battlefield of 1471.

Step back in time to 1471. See how the course of English history was changed on this misty Easter Sunday morning.

Hear about the first known ‘friendly fire’ incident in English history.

Sunday October 20th 2.30pm. 

Saturday Nov 16th 11am. 

Sunday Dec 8th 11am.

Meet at junction of Great North Road and Hadley Green Road. About 100yards north of Pizza Express. 

For more information about Barnet Walks please call (020) 8440 6805 or 07506 761294.
or e-mail pbaker54@hotmail.co.uk

16 September 2013

Sale of The Electoral Roll

So that we can all vote there has to be a register of electors. There are two versions. The full version used for voting purposes and various government departments and can be purchased by credit reference agencies (so it doesn't affect your ability to obtain credit if you opt out). This link is what the ICO says about electoral registration.

A second smaller version is the edited roll which contains only those people who have not opted out of having their details sold commercially.

By law, anybody can buy a copy of the edited roll at modest cost as replicating an electronic file is inexpensive. Bigbrotherwatch have written about sales of the edited roll.

In Barnet the following purchased a copy.

Godfrey & Barr
Jeremy Leaf
London Properties
Global Land Group
Individuals x 4
Your Move - Spencer & Spencer
Warden Hill School of Motoring
Heronslea Ltd
Secure Services (GB) Ltd
Jesus House
Data Trans Ltd
Duncan and Maclean
Bell Pottinger Public Affairs
6th Friern Barnet Scout Group
Nepomak UK
Kato Enterprise Ltd
Cosway Estate Agents
Open Heavens Christian Centre
Midway Insurance Services
Chess Estates
Eden Clinic
Taylor Hawkins Ltd
The Howard League
Coast Insurance

Mr Mustard ticks the opt-out box every year.

What he didn't know, and what he suspects you didn't know, is that you can opt out permanently. This is how.

Write as follows:

Electoral Registration Officer
North London Business Park
Oakleigh Road South
N11 1NP

Dear Sir or Madam

I, [ full name ] of [ full address ] require that you as Electoral Registration Officer for [Chipping Barnet / Finchley & Golders Green / Hendon *] cease or do not begin processing for the purpose of direct marketing personal data which I supply to you in respect of the Register of Electors with effect from the date of this request. In doing so and until I notify you in writing to the contrary, I particularly request that my name be withheld from the current and future versions of the Edited Register of Electors and that this choice be specifically marked on any annual registration forms sent to me in the future.


* delete as appropriate. If you don't know which constituency you are in then enter your postcode on this website.

This should cut down the amount of junk mail you receive including letters from estate agents asking you to sell or rent your property etc.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard